The Kill by Emile Zola

It is one of the earliest novels in the cycle, but it definitely shows the glimpses of author’s talent and Zola’s firm social stand. 
The novel is twofold – it is a story of a young woman’s social and emotional unraveling and the picture of financial and moral corruption of the Parisian upper middle bourgeoisie. 

Zola is brave and audacious even by modern standards – he tackles issues of moral dissipation of the humongous size, sexual near incestual relationship (stepmother and stepson), homosexuality, and even androgyny. His scathing criticism interestingly, but not disruptively, mingles with sensual passages of sexual seduction and pages full of high tension and edginess. Of course, some descriptive passages are beautiful but excessive and slightly tiring, but they do convey the verve of city life, urban existence, and the sense of indulgence. 

Zola’s naturalistic approach allows to chronicle the moral decomposition of the society, and the brunt of this scathing criticism is on Aristide Rougon (Saccard) who can pawn everything, including his wife’s trousseau and her reputation. Another example of the same moral downfall is Sidonie Rougon, who is more than happy to condone the sexual affairs of her sister-in-law if they guarantee her extra profit. 

Renee, whose unraveling becomes more and more obvious by the end of the novel, and who dies young, is a sympathetic victim despite her numerous faults. She is the one who understands her shortcomings and feels betrayed and misplaced while others indulge themselves in dissipation and debauchery. 

Zola’s neutral and naturalistic style makes it hard for some readers 
to relate to the novel emotionally, especially for those who like to form an emotional bond (obviously one-sided) with characters, but it also allows to chronicle the everyday life with the disaffection and fairness of a historian


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Filed under Book Review, Classic, Literary Fiction

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